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Prep Football Preview Special
ScoringLive staffFebruary 10, 2023, 11:20pm
Fri, Feb 10, 2023 @ Stan Sheriff
Two (koa) heads are better than one.
After missing out on the title game a year ago, Kohala is once again kings of Hawaii Division II boys basketball, getting a pair of huge shots in the closing seconds from Layden Kauka to will the Cowboys past University Lab, 40-38.
"Very special," said Layden Kauka of the win. "I still remember players on the 2020 team (Kohala's first state title) saying earlier this year that their trophy looked lonely so we needed another one, so I kind of took that to heart."
Junior Landon Kauka led all scorers with 19 points, 16 of them coming in the first three quarters of play, as the Cowboys needed an answer offensively with leading scorer Layden held to just five points through the first 24 minutes of play.
"My brother was my struggling, so I just stepped up to try and help my team out and eventually my brother got back in it," said Landon.
And got back in it in a big way he did, as his younger brother Layden had the ball in his hands for the Cowboys with the game in the balance and delivered.
The freshman guard scored the final seven points for the Cowboys, hitting a huge three to get to within a point, hit another basket on a coast to coast layup with 43 seconds left to put Kohala up one, then gave his team the lead for good on a pull-up jumper near the elbow with just four ticks to go.
"They drew up a play and I just called for a screen from my big and just went from there," said Layden of the game winning shot.
The Cowboys fell behind early in the contest, but got things going in the back half of the first quarter, with three big baskets by Jaydon Hook, part of a 10-1 scoring run to close out a period that looked from the outset to be clearly in favor of the Jr. Bows.
"I expect Jaydon to do all the dirty work," remarked Layden. "He's not very tall or big but he finds a way."
"Jayden's an impactful player, he's huge for our team," Landon agreed.
University Lab controlled the second quarter, outscoring Kohala 14-5 in the second with Trey Ambrozich (8 points) and Duke Mobley (6 points) accounting for all baskets scored, giving the Jr. Bows a 21-17 lead at the half.
The game remained tight through the balance of the third, but the Jr. Bows found some separation in the opening part of the fourth, extending to a 35-29 lead on a layup by Mobley at the 6:42 mark.
"They was a tough team," said Landon. "But we always have grit, we never give up, we just keep battling."
And that they did, as Kohala halved the lead on a clutch Landon Kauka three with 6:24 left, and Layden hit one of two free throws to cut the margin to just a pair with 4:35 in regulation.
Koa Laboy's drop step jumper on the left block pushed the Jr. Bows lead back up to four with 1:12 to play, setting up Layden Kauka's heroics down the stretch, a 7-1 scoring push that ended in a second state crown heading back to Kohala as a final desperation attempt from three by Ambrozich at the buzzer was just off target.
The win marked the second title in three years for Kohala, who return four starters next season, losing only forward/center Trever Figueroa to graduation. University Lab also returns four starters next season, with forward Duke Mobley the only senior in the first five.
Heide & Cook/HHSAA Division II All-Tournament Team(as selected by the media and HHSAA)
Landon Kauka, KohalaTrey Ambrozich, University LabKoa Laboy, University LabDuke Mobley, University LabJoshua Rego, Kauai
Most outstanding player: Layden Kauka, Kohala
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